Ongoing Research

Below are my projects that are either in review or near the submission stage. They are in the order that I expect to wrap them up. Please reach out with any questions or comments; I’d appreciate hearing from you.

The random filter identification strategy

When an exogenous mediator variable facilitates a treatment effect of interest, the random filter removes variation in treatment driven by unobservable confounding factors. This “filtering” permits identification of an ATE when the assumptions underlying other strategies are not met or yield a LATE. This paper derives the identification assumptions for the random filter and demonstrates its applicability to research in economics. In my empirical example, I use the random filter to measure the impact of the launch of a free-to-use mobile banking platform in El Salvador and explore the mechanisms that caused a push for financial inclusion to be unsuccessful.

Keywords: random filter, front door criterion, identification strategies, financial inclusion, digital banking, mobile money, Chivo Wallet

[Working Paper] [Code available after publication] [Lecture Slides] [Simulation Code]

The economic value of designer flows in river conservation

Lead Author. With Lucas Bair, Matthew Reimer, Michael Springborn, Charles Yackulic, and Dominique Bain

Forgoing hydropower to control invasive species through designer flows can provide an effective, but costly addition to meet conservation goals. Preliminary results from an application in the Grand Canyon imply that as the market price of electricity falls, the value of improved invasive species monitoring eventually justifies both monitoring costs and flow implementation.

Keywords: population viability, ecosystem restoration, designer flows, hydropower

[Manuscript and code available by request]

An alternative climate policy tool that reflects the scientific consensus

For 40 years, economics has consistently diluted the severity of the projected damages due to climate change, despite near-universal objection from the scientific community. In this paper, I identify an optimal emissions pathway (and carbon price) driven by the scientific emphasis on avoiding unknown tipping points, without requiring any the heavily-criticized assumptions that burden cost-benefit IAMs. My results do not perpetuate the claim that climate change is something we can afford to address at a snail’s pace.

Keywords: the role of economics in climate change, optimal abatement, risk and irreversibility, tipping points, integrated assessment modeling

[Manuscript and code available by request]

Cost-effective species viability

The modeling choices that go into designing an optimization problem are just as important as the optimization step itself. For example, models concerned with “cost-effective species viability” could take on all sorts of forms, thus the resulting “optimal” policies will naturally vary in expected present cost or long-run viability. Using two representative case studies, I show that without key model components, an “optimal” solution to the viability problem can end up being excessively costly or excessively risky.

Keywords: model design, bioeconomics, endangered species conservation

Encouraging the defragmentation of habitat across privately-owned lands

Land ownership is often fragmented in areas of conservation interest. Fragmented ownership of a public ecological good will naturally inhibit the preservation of a large, contiguous piece of land—the ecological ideal—without an incentive scheme that encourages collective action. I use methods from statistical mechanics to develop a model of landscape value and collective landowner behavior, then use this to inform efficient land-use regulation that rewards smallholders for preserving (1) the social benefits of conserving any one parcel, and (2) the positive network effects that the connection of conserved parcels creates.

Keywords: land use, habitat fragmentation, conservation incentives, policy design